It’s nearly 100 years since the great Fenian Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa died in Staten Island, New York City, a man perhaps best known for the graveside oration given at his burial, where Pádraig Pearse famously proclaimed that ‘Ireland unfree shall never be at peace’. His funeral was utilised for propaganda purposes, with thousands lining the route from City Hall to his final resting place in Glasnevin Cemetery. On learning of his passing Thomas Clarke instructed Clann Na Gael in New York to ‘get his body home at once’.
As one of the ‘Cuba Five’ (the ship used to transport them to America was the S.S. Cuba), Rossa was exiled for life to the USA because of an amnesty given to Fenian prisoners, after initally being given a life sentence of penal servitude for his role in planning a Fenian uprising in 1865.
While imprisoned, O’Donovan Rossa was elected as an MP to the British House of Commons for the Tipperary constituency. The British, angered, declared the result invalid as O’Donovan Rossa was an ‘imprisoned felon’. While in the USA O’Donovan Rossa was still active in plotting bombing missions in Britain, mostly famously the dynamite campaign in the 1880’s, which saw Britain demand his extradition from the USA, thankfully unsuccessfully.
A book is due to be released in time for the centenary of his passing – titled Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa: Unrepentant Fenian – by esteemed Irish author and historian Dr. Shane Kenna. It is only fitting he will give a talk on our behalf on the man himself this weekend, on Saturday June 27th at 2pm in the National History Museum (formerly Collins Barracks). As with all our talks entry is free and all are welcome, for what is sure to be an interesting discussion on a man rightly titled an ‘unrepentant Fenian’.
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